Special master in classified Mar-a-Lago documents case still plans to preside over NY trial of man who threatened to kill Trump
NEW YORK — The special master in the Mar-a-Lago documents case still plans to preside over the November trial of a man who threatened to kill former President Donald Trump — another signal that the veteran jurist will make quick work of his role in the classified papers probe.
Judge Raymond Dearie is presiding over the case of Thomas Welnicki, a 72-year-old Rockaway Beach resident who federal prosecutors say made several calls to the Secret Service last year threatening to kill Trump.
The case is scheduled to go to trial in Brooklyn Federal Court on Nov. 2 — weeks before Dearie’s Nov. 30 deadline to complete his special master work.
Dearie told the New York Daily News through a staff member in his chambers Monday that he has no plans to hand the case to another judge despite his special master duties.
At a hearing last week, Dearie told lawyers for Trump and the Department of Justice that he expects to review the roughly 11,000 documents seized by the FBI in a matter of weeks.
“We’re going to proceed with what I call ‘responsible dispatch.’ I’m not going to hurry but we have a lot to do and a relatively short period of time,” Dearie said at the hearing.
Dearie issued a scheduling order in Welnicki’s case last week, setting deadlines for motions as the trial approaches.
Welnicki made several threats against Trump, starting in 2020, when he told Capitol Police in a voluntary interview that he would “acquire weapons” and “take him down” if he refused to leave office, according to a criminal complaint.
The complaint refers to Trump as “Individual-1,” and details a series of calls Welnicki made to the Secret Service in 2021, including a Nov. 8 call where he referred to the former president as “Hitler” and said, “I will do everything I can to make sure (Individual-1) is dead.”
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Breon Peace declined comment Monday, as did Welnicki’s lawyer, Deirdre Von Dornum.
Sources familiar with Welnicki’s defense team said they consider Dearie “extremely fair” and don’t believe any conflict might arise from his special master work.
Dearie was one of Team Trump’s picks for a special master, after Judge Aileen Cannon put the brakes on the DOJ’s investigation into whether the former president took and improperly stored classified and top secret documents after leaving office.
Cannon, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida’s Southern District, ordered that DOJ investigators couldn’t use the seized documents in their probe until a special master reviewed them, in a much-derided August ruling.
But that legal victory may have backfired on Trump’s lawyers.
Dearie put Trump’s legal team on the hook last week, forcing them to take a position on whether he declassified documents and to provide proof of his unfounded claim the FBI planted evidence.
And last Wednesday, a three-judge appeals panel in the 11th Circuit — which included two Trump appointees — reversed parts of Cannon’s decision and ruled that the DOJ can continue to use about 100 classified files uncovered in the Mar-a-Lago search.